Derek Chauvin Was Found Guilty, But A Bigger Fight For Justice Is Still Ongoing
"The problem is cops have all the power and they're killing people every fucking day. I don't care that they're getting sent to jail now. They shouldn't be killing people."
Americans waited tensely to hear the jury's verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday. Though video had captured the officer's actions and fellow police officers condemned his behavior, no one was sure if the justice system would fulfill its duty and hold him responsible for the murder of George Floyd.
When a judge announced he was guilty of charges including second-degree murder, activists and millions of Americans felt a sense of relief — but not necessarily elation.
"We all knew he was guilty. We seen it," Tameer Peak told BuzzFeed News outside the courtroom in Minneapolis as a crowd gathered. "The problem is cops have all the power, and they're killing people every fucking day. I don't care that they're getting sent to jail now. They shouldn't be killing people."
Even as celebrations began after the rare conviction of a police officer in the murder of a Black man, there was hesitance from some people to call it a victory. Nothing would bring Floyd back to his family. Just before the verdict was announced, police in Columbus, Ohio, fatally shot a teen girl. Instead, a conversation began to emerge in the streets of Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and DC, among politicians, and online.
One former police officer may have been held accountable for his actions, but real justice means making the system work for Black Americans.
At Black Lives Matter plaza in Washington, DC, Cheria Askew told BuzzFeed News he thought Chauvin might be convicted of manslaughter, but hadn't expected the jury to also convict of second and third-degree murder as well.
"It would have been a sad day in America if he would have been found not guilty," Askew said. "It would have been more chaos, more anger, more confusion."
Tyson Joyner, also in DC, told BuzzFeed News he was looking at the bigger picture.
"This is a good thing for today, but it opens up another conversation for how things will get better," Joyner said. "If somebody doesn't give you food for like a thousand years and then they give you a piece of bread one time, yeah, you're gonna eat the bread because you're hungry, but you still remember some things."
It was a feeling reiterated over and over again Tuesday after the Chauvin verdict was read in court. From activists on the ground to former president Barack Obama, many questioned whether the conviction of one officer could be called justice while Black Americans continue to be pulled over, shot, and killed by police at disproportionate rates.
"Even if there is accountability, for one murder, for one officer, on one day," activist Brittany Packnett wrote on Twitter. "That aint justice. Justice is a living George & the abolition of a system intent on harm."
Obama praised the Minneapolis jury for doing the right thing, but he also pointed out the need for systemic change.
"If we're being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial," Obama wrote. "True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last."
The verdict, Obama said, "may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one."
In 2020, Floyd's death sparked unprecedented protests across the country and demands to reform, defund, or abolish policing systems in the US. Outside the Minneapolis courthouse on Tuesday, Peak worried that Chauvin's conviction would appease too many people who had joined with activists fighting for change.
"Now they give us this one breadcrumb and then everyone is going to go back to normal and go back to regular life," he said. "And I know for a fact that this system is bullshit and has been oppressing Black people since its inception."
According to a Washington Post analysis of police shootings since 2015, Black Americans continue to be shot by police at a disproportionate rate. Although they only compose about 13% of the US population, they are killed by police by more than twice the rate of white people.
"We don't take this lightly. It was sacrificial blood that made this moment possible for history and America," said attorney Ben Crump moments after the Chauvin verdict was read.
Crump represented Floyd's family as well as those of other Black men and women killed by police.
"We still have work to do," he said.
Later Tuesday, President Joe Biden called Crump, noting he had been watching "every second" of the trial.
"We're all so relieved," the president told Floyd's family in a phone conversation that was recorded and tweeted by Crump. "This can be our first shot at dealing with prevalent, systemic racism."
The conviction, Sen. Bernie Sanders said, was accountability, but it wasn't yet true justice for Floyd and others like him.
"Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person," he wrote.
Back in Minneapolis, people gathered at the spot where Floyd was killed as well as marching from the courthouse through downtown.
One woman waved a flag with a raised fist in Minneapolis as drivers honked their horns in celebration.
"I feel like I can just finally catch a breath," she told BuzzFeed News. "This is an outstanding day for all of us."
Another man walked with the crowd, surprised but glad of the verdict and what it could mean for the future.
"We are finally getting justice for being Black in America," he told BuzzFeed News. "We never got nothing like this before. It's like being on the other side of justice."
The crowd continued to march along Seventh Street in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday evening. As they celebrated the victory in Floyd's case, some said they were also keeping an eye on that of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man killed by police during a traffic stop just a few miles from where Chauvin was convicted.
A man on a megaphone yelled out to the crowd: "We're gonna celebrate today, but tomorrow, we get back to work."